Climate & Energy

Americans using less gasoline

Well, it’s finally happened: Americans are starting to use less gasoline. It took a weakened economy and record oil prices — crude hit an all-time high of $103.95 a barrel Monday — but in the past six weeks, U.S. gasoline consumption has fallen by an average 1.1 percent from 2007 levels, the most sustained drop in at least 16 years (excepting the dropoff that followed Hurricane Katrina). As Americans move to mitigate their gas-pump pain by seeking out more fuel-efficient cars, migrating into walkable neighborhoods, and riding public transit, analysts are suggesting that reduced gasoline use could be a long-term …

AEC chooses renewables and efficiency over coal

New across the transom, from Sierra Club (no link yet): Today, Associated Electric Cooperative, one of the nation’s largest and most respected rural electric cooperatives announced they are “postponing indefinitely” their plans to build a massive new coal-fired power plant near Norborne in Northwest Missouri. Associated Electric will pursue wind, energy efficiency and natural gas instead. Sweet.

Biofuel blight: tastes great, less filling

Alcohol refinery may enhance tourist industry

Tourists, bird watchers, and native cattle herders in Kenya's Tana River delta may soon have a spanking-new alcohol refinery in the middle of their wetland. Granted, the wetland will be slightly less wet because a third of its water will be diverted to cropland. Always one to look for a silver lining, I would hope that this refinery will include an air-conditioned bar where tourists and herders alike can gather for happy hour after a long, hot day of wildlife viewing and cattle herding. Paul Matiku, Executive Director of Nature Kenya (and might I add, a real pessimist) claims: Large areas would become ecological deserts. The Delta is a wildlife refuge with cattle herders depending on it for centuries as well. There is no commitment to mitigation for the damage that will be done and no evidence that local incomes will be in any way improved. *Cough*loser*cough*! Excuse me. Here, Richard Branson, after publicly admitting that his investments in corn ethanol were a mistake, goes on to say: "But, ah, there are countries in the world like Africa [actually a continent], um, like Mozambique, where they have got sugarcane plantations lying wasted, doing nothing ..."

You're ridin' high in April, shot down in May

Climate change skeptics say we should note, not hype

Revkin: Mr. Morano, in an e-mail message, was undaunted, saying turnabout is fair play: "Fair is fair. Noting (not hyping) an unusually harsh global winter is merely pointing out the obvious. Dissenters of a man-made 'climate crisis' are using the reality of this record-breaking winter to expose the silly warming alarmism that the news media and some scientists have been ceaselessly promoting for decades." And then there's this: "Earth's 'Fever' Breaks: Global Cooling Currently Under Way." That should answer Barry Ritholtz's question (h/t to sunsetbeachguy): If the above long term chart was a stock, would you short it? Apparently the the Republican minority on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee would.

The Mustache on David Letterman

David Letterman is a national treasure. And, not for the first time, I ask you to marvel at the ability of Tom Friedman to generate a memorable aphorism for literally any point he’s trying to make. He’s like a savant or something: (thanks LL!)

U.K. activists will hold big protest at coal plant this summer

Activists in the U.K. have announced that an annual weeklong climate camp, held last year to protest expansion of London’s Heathrow Airport, will this summer be held at the site of a proposed coal-fired power plant in Kent. Which is not to say, of course, that they’re not still pissed about Heathrow.

Climate policy, auctions, and economic justice

The core progressive issue in the fight over climate legislation

The following post was originally published on The Nation’s guest blog, Passing Through, where I was in residence throughout February. It is a rudimentary introduction to cap-and-trade and the question of allocating permits, an argument (or three) in favor of auctioning permits, and a review of the political state of play around the question. The point is to get people up to speed on the crucial debate over permit auctions, which should be a central focal point for grassroots pressure on the process. It is long. I recommend printing it out and reading it on the toilet. —– Good morning, …

Coal gets emBiggered

Righteous anger from author Jeff Biggers about the notion of "clean coal" — or as I call it, "clean enemy of the human race." He’s watching some of America’s oldest mountains get blown up, landscapes scarred, communities immiserated … and it doesn’t look clean to him. We’ve noted here many times that new coal is not cheap. Capital costs have skyrocketed and the entire industry lives in mortal fear of impending carbon legislation. Imagine if the industry were forced to actually follow safety and environmental regulations and fairly compensate communities for health and nuisance impacts. Imagine if a new president …

Media enable denier spin, part one

A (sort of) cold January doesn’t mean climate stopped warming

I fully understand why spreaders of climate disinformation have hyped up a (sort-of) cold January as if it somehow provided scientific evidence to support their campaign to undermine the well-established scientific understanding of human-caused climate change. That's their job (literally, in many cases). But I can't understand why the media keep treating such disinformers as if they were a genuine part of the scientific process who deserve free publicity, rather than dangerous serial misleaders who don't believe in either science and real-world observations (but who repeatedly misuse one or the other to confuse to the general public). Our deep understanding of the climate is, as I've noted, based on hundreds of peer-reviewed studies that themselves are based on countless real-world observations over decades (and paleoclimate data extending back hundreds of thousands of years). It can't be undercut by a few weeks of cool weather -- and the really annoying thing, you may be surprised to learn, is they haven't even been remarkably cool! So I don't understand why the usually thoughtful Andrew Revkin would enable the disinformers write an NYT article titled "Climate Skeptics Seize on Cold Spell," or the usually thoughtful WSJ blog would write a similarly misguided piece, "Little Ice Age? Cold Snap Sparks Cooling Debate." Seriously. Who cares what non-climate-related factoid or piece of pseudo-science so-called "Climate Skeptics" seize on? And the only "debate" that has been sparked is one created by the disinformers and the media. [I will come back to the media critique at the end. In Part II I'll discuss, one more time, why they do not deserve the label "skeptics," and why I'm finally persuaded "deniers" isn't a great term. Let's call them "disinformers," for now, though a good case could be made for "would-be climate destroyers."]

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